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carole lombard 03

The last hurdle is cleared

Posted by vp19 on 2011.03.09 at 01:47
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

That photo, from the Jan. 25, 1939 Minneapolis Tribune, shows Carole Lombard with Clark Gable at the premiere of his new film, "Idiot's Delight." And to the delight of both Clark and Carole, Gable's wife, Ria Langham, had just moved to Las Vegas in order to establish a six-week residency to qualify for a divorce. (It was a procedure Lombard knew well, because she spent six weeks in Reno in the summer of 1933 in order to divorce William Powell.)

The morning of March 8, the Tribune reported, to use a later term, that all systems were go:

Incidentally, I had never heard the term "Gretna Greens" before; a Google search showed it refers to a place where people go to get married. The original Gretna Green is in Scotland, just over the border from England, and Scotland's relatively lax marriage rules (no residency requirements, both members of the couple must be at least age 16) meant it was a popular place to take vows.

Apparently in 1939, both Las Vegas and Yuma, Ariz., were "Gretna Greens" for the western U.S. (Perhaps the East Coast equivalent is Elkton, Md., just across the state line from Delaware, where couples from states along the northeast corridor would get married. I know this because my parents, both Brooklynites, married in Elkton on Dec. 21, 1942.)

In 1939, according to the blog at WorldVitalRecords.com, "California passed a law that required a medical examination before marriage. During one year of the enforcement of this California marriage law, Yuma recorded 17,000 marriages for a town that had only 5,000 residents. Both Yuma and Las Vegas became the place for Hollywood stars and the everyday person to get married."

So it was understandable why in March 1939, many people in Vegas and Yuma expected the "king" and his screwball queen-to-be would soon pay a visit.

On March 6, columnist Sheilah Graham's column, which ran in the Tribune, added more conjecture (the Gable-Lombard segment is at the bottom of the first column):

"Clark Gable and Carole Lombard have confirmed the chatter that they will have as quiet a wedding as possible under the circumstances -- i.e. with the whole country alert to their plans. They want Gail Patrick and her husband, Bob Cobb, as witnesses, but this will be a last-second decision, depending on last-second circumstances."

Patrick, who first worked with Carole on "Rumba" and then gained renown as her antagonist sister in "My Man Godfrey," was a close friend of Lombard's; her husband, Robert Cobb, owned the Brown Derby restaurants (Clark proposed to Carole at the Vine Street Derby) as well as the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League.

I don't think it's any spoiler to announce that when the vows were finally taken in Kingman, Ariz., roughly 150 miles north of Yuma, Patrick and Cobb were not there. Had they backed out because their whereabouts might have given things away? Were they too busy to accompany Clark and Carole? (I'm not sure if Gail was making a movie at the time, but Robert not only had his restaurants to oversee but construction of the Stars' new home, Gilmore Field, which would finally open for business in May.) Did Clark and Carole decide to elope without alerting them? I'm really not sure.

Oh, I should also note that in early March of '39, Lombard was back in the moviehouses, co-starring with James Stewart in "Made For Each Other." Here's an ad from the March 2 Tribune:

Two days later, it was reviewed by the Tribune's John Alden, who raved about Stewart (it would be a sensational year for him), but was somewhat cooler about Carole's going dramatic. (Double-click each segment to view at enlarged size.):

Incidentally, all the Minneapolis Tribune material is from a thread at the "Your Favorites" Turner Classic Movies message board, as part of the thread called "1939 -- Hollywood's Greatest Year -- Day-By-Day -- as it happens!" (http://forums.tcm.com/jive/tcm/thread.jspa?threadID=157427&tstart=0&start=0). It's a wonderful way to immerse yourself in what '39 was like for a film buff who was living it. (Even the oldest members or readers of "Carole & Co." were at most probably toddlers or pre-teens in 1939.)


Monty Hawes
Monty Hawes at 2011-03-09 21:36 (UTC) (Link)

next year

I love these articles VP. They're awesome. And I just posted a response on Mythical Monkey's blog about next year'r tournament. Since so many actresses got left out because mainly of the number 64 being the right number that breaks down evenly all the way to 1. I figure if the count is doubled to 128 it would be perfect as well. If me, you, Mythical Monkey and the other gentlemen who posted a response on MB's page were each to take an era, we could run the tournament over our 4 blogs evenly. It would be quite the event and make the work easier as a group instead of one person. I'm game for it, how about you VP?
cinemafan2 at 2011-03-10 00:13 (UTC) (Link)

Maria (Ria) Gable

Interesting that the Tribune article gives Ria's age as just 11 years older than Clark Gable's. She was in fact born on January 17, 1884, so she was more than 17 years older than him. By that stage of his career, Ria had served her purpose, and Gable needed to trade her in for a younger model. Carole, who was almost 25 years younger than Ria, gave Gable and Howard Strickling, the publicity manager of MGM, (and now Vince), a hell of a lot more to work with than Ria.

Edited at 2011-03-10 03:46 pm (UTC)
Evangeline Holland
evangeline_h at 2011-03-10 01:07 (UTC) (Link)
Reno was actually a divorce colony around the turn of the century. It superseded Sioux Falls, and was considered such a scandal, Nevada passed a law in 1914 requiring one year's residency in the city instead of six months. Amazingly enough, soon after this law was passed, Paris (France) began to advertise itself as the place for Americans to obtain quickie divorces until the backlash made them hush that up!
ta1958 at 2011-03-10 01:18 (UTC) (Link)
ta1958 at 2011-03-07 18:18 (UTC) (Link)

news clippings/photos
I am new here but have enjoyed the effort that is put into this site! I have been trying to get into contact with Tally because I have hundreds of photos and clippings on Carole that I would like to share with everyone at Carole & Co.. I tried sending a message but have not gotten a response. It is quite a large collection with lots of interesting articles etc. Tally, if you are out there please contact me.
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